Life Changing Meal Prep Hacks That Make Family Dinners Easier

These hacks make whipping up dinner a breeze!

By: Amanda Mushro
Two beautiful woman and young boy cooking holiday meal in kitchen / Algarve, Portugal. Part of a series.

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Two beautiful woman and young boy cooking holiday meal in kitchen / Algarve, Portugal. Part of a series.

Photo by: Counter

Counter

While I know that I have to prepare dinner for my family every night of the week, I find myself staring at my fridge hoping a delicious meal will magically appear in front of me. A delicious meal that someone else has planned, prepped and cooked. Since my fridge isn’t magical, I’m in charge of dinner and I needed a few hacks that make all parts of dinner easier on me. From the way I plan meals to the way I freeze leftovers, here are eight hacks that have been working for me.

Prep Your Produce Immediately

When you get home from the grocery store, you probably just want to quickly unpack your groceries and move on with your day. However, if you take a few extra minutes to prep your produce for the week, making meals will be so much easier. Start by washing all of your produce and giving your veggies a quick chop. Place the vegetables in airtight containers so they can be used in recipes or as snacks throughout the week

Stock Up On Items You’ll Use Multiple Times

Keeping your grocery list simple will help keep your meal prep simple. Instead of different fruit and vegetables every night, try using the same produce but switch up the way it’s served. Or try using the same type of meat in two or three recipes a week. This way, you can prep the meat early in the week and use it in several meals. If you cook a large batch of ground meat, you can have tacos one night, a beef and noodle casserole the next night, and a cheeseburger mac and cheese another night.

Use a Mixer to Shred Chicken

At the beginning of the week, cook up a few pieces of chicken or grab a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. Instead of shredding the chicken into tiny pieces with two forks, toss larger pieces into a bowl and use a standing or hand mixer to do all of the work. It takes just a few minutes and a lot less work for you. Place the shredded chicken in an air-tight container and use the meat throughout the week for soup, tacos, and other easy recipes. If you have an extra large batch of chicken, place the meat into freezer safe bags and store in your freezer for up to three to four months.

Cook Once, Eat Twice

When making your family’s favorite meals, double the recipe so that you can freeze a large bath and serve it later. From soups and casseroles to pastas and meals you can toss in the slow cooker — cook once and eat twice. Those delicious frozen meals will come in handy on busy weeknights.

Breakfast for Dinner

In my house, breakfast for dinner is always a hit. To make this meal easier, have less cleanup, and plenty of leftovers, I make sheet pan pancakes and bake the bacon. This is also an easy one to make on the weekend and serve up during the week.

For the pancakes here’s what you’ll need:

  • Pre-made pancake mix
  • Your family’s favorite toppings like sliced fruit or chocolate chips.

For the pancakes:

Follow the instructions of the pancake mix to make a large batch of pancake mix. Pour the batter onto a greased baking sheet and add toppings. Bake at 425 degrees for 15-18 minutes. When cooled, slice, serve, and refrigerate leftovers.

For the bacon:

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and place the bacon side by side on the tray. Cook the bacon for 10-20 minutes to reach your desired crispness. Remove the bacon with tongs and let it sit on a paper towel lined plate.

Put A Slow Cooker or an Instant Pot to Work

Not only do these kitchen devices cut down on the number of pots, pans, and dishes you have to wash, but dumping in the ingredients and walking away while dinner cooks is a total time saver. If you’ve gotten out of the habit of using one or both devices or you are on the fence if you need one, do it. I use both several times a week when making meals for my family.

Dedicate One Day to Meal Prep

Dedicating one day to meal prep saves time, reduces stress, and can help streamline grocery shopping and minimize food waste. For me, Sunday evening is the best day to do this, but choose a day that works for you. It helps me plan my menu for the week and figure out how I can cut down on extra cooking each and every day.

Upgrade Your Containers

Upgrading to glass leftover containers offers several advantages. Glass is non-toxic, it doesn't absorb odors, and is more durable than plastic. It preserves the flavor and quality of food, is microwave-safe, and can go from the fridge to the oven or microwave.

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